Berri Still at Odds with Hariri over Disputed Decree

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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is still at odds with Prime Minister Saad Hariri after the latter signed a disputed decree along with President Michel Aoun without referring it to the finance minister.

“The Speaker is still at odds with the Premier, who had promised him not to sign the decree before changing his mind later and agreeing to sign it,” sources close to Berri told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday.

“Had PM Saad Hariri kept his promise, the crisis between Speaker Nabih Berri and President Michel Aoun would not have reached this extent,” the sources noted.

“In the absence of a solution to the dispute over the decree, the Berri-Hariri relation will not improve,” the sources added.

The Aoun-Berri spat broke out after the president and the premier signed a decree granting one-year seniority to a number of officers. Berri and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have insisted that the decree should have also carried the finance minister’s signature.

Aoun and his aides have argued that the decree did not require Khalil’s signature because it did not entail any “financial burden,” a point Berri and officials close to him have argued against.

Ain el-Tineh sources have meanwhile warned that the decree would tip sectarian balance in favor of Christians in the army’s highest echelons.

The officers in question were undergoing their first year of officer training at the Military Academy when Syrian forces ousted Aoun’s military government from Baabda in 1990. They were suspended by the pro-Damascus authorities until 1993 before they resumed their officer training course as second-year cadets.

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